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Diane Swanson gave 44 years of service to the Kansas City Public Library, including a decade and a half as director of its bustling Plaza Branch. Even after her death, the quiet, keenly intellectual librarian has continued to give – a $1 million bequest that is the largest one-time gift from an individual in the Library’s history.
It forms the new Swanson Strategic Endowment Fund, authorized by the Library’s board of trustees this week. Set up through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, it will be used to “highlight the riches of our collections and spread the word in the community about the great services provided by the Library, the kinds of things that Diane Swanson did all of her career,” Library Director Crosby Kemper III says.
The gift “helps the Library to maintain and enhance those offerings,” Kemper says.
Swanson, the daughter of former Western Auto Supply Co. president and CEO Arthur Swanson, rose through the Library’s ranks over a career that spanned from 1958 to her retirement in 2002. Most of that time was spent in management positions at the Plaza Branch, which she oversaw as director from 1985 to 2000.
Born in the Chicago area, she graduated from Northwestern University and went on to earn a graduate degree in library science from the University of Denver.
A reproduction of Thomas Hart Benton’s 1947 mural “Achelous and Hercules” – true to the 22-foot-long, more than five-foot high dimensions of the original – now graces the first floor of the Central Library. On permanent display outside the Genevieve Guldner Gallery, it returns an image that famously adorned the old Harzfeld’s Department Store just a few blocks away.